Grocery sales at UK supermarkets surged +4.4% in the last four weeks ending 16 July, with sales rising to +5.6% during the final week as inflation, coupled with the start of the summer heatwave, encouraged shoppers to spend more.
That is according to data from NielsenIQ, which revealed that over the four week period, sales at the Grocery Multiples increased +2.7%, which is the highest growth since April 2021, when the country exited the first pandemic lockdown.
Nielsen said that the summer heatwave encouraged shoppers to “socialise and eat picnics outdoors”, with sales for fresh food and beverages surging such as sandwiches (+24%), mineral water (+28%) and ice cream (+24%). Prepared salads (+18%) and prepared fruit (+14%) also benefited from the weather shifting consumer lifestyles.
In terms of non-food products, sales increased for luggage (38%) and suncare (125%), with sales reaching £50m in the four week period. NielsenIQ data also revealed a continued sales recovery in health and beauty products (+13%) as well as a rise in petfood and petcare products (+11.9%).
As a result of the warmer weather and opportunities to socialise, NielsenIQ data found that in the last four week period, visits to stores rose 10% compared with the same period last year. This is an uplift from the 7% increase recorded in June. In contrast, the slowdown in online sales continued with sales falling 10.5% compared with last year, but online share of sales has remained broadly stable at 11.5%.
Despite an increase in sales, NielsenIQ data found that volume sales fell 4.1% in the four week period, with “significant volume” declines in packaged grocery (-6.4%), household items (-8.1%) and meat, fish and poultry (-9.4%)1 as households managed their weekly grocery shopping budget.
This is a result of high single digit food inflation, meaning that UK shoppers are buying less food and drink. With this in mind, spend per visit across all channels was down 5% as shoppers continued to make trade-offs when shopping, such as opting to buy smaller packs, delaying spend or changing the products they buy.
Mike Watkins, NielsenIQ’s UK head of Retailer and Business Insight, said: “Shopping around is now a key coping strategy for households, who are looking to save money. However, with the start of the summer heatwave, we’ve seen UK consumers shopping more often, which has led to a stronger trading period over the last four weeks.
“The improvement in top line sales growth is a combination of increases in inflation, but also some incremental spend due to the weather. But overall, volumes at UK supermarkets are down which is no surprise given that three quarters (75%) of households have noticed that their normal weekly grocery shop is costing more than it did six months ago, while 34%2 are cutting back on their grocery purchasing.”
He added: “The worrying pressure on sales volumes is expected to continue throughout the summer period and exacerbated due to the holidays, with more Brits travelling abroad than last year.
“This means that the key battleground for retailers will be on who can attract the most shoppers with inspiring media campaigns to build on the ongoing shopping trend to shop little and more often. This will be important for sustaining growth when shoppers revert to their usual shopping patterns after the holidays and importantly, cope with even higher household bills.”